Iran makes rare acknowledgement of senior commander combat death

Iran makes rare acknowledgement of senior commander combat death
Shaaban Nassiri was the first Iranian Revolutionary Guard general to have been confirmed dead in Iraq by Iran's state-controlled media.
2 min read
28 May, 2017
Shaaban Nassiri [right] also fought in the Iran-Iraq war in the 80s [Facebook]

One of Iran's top commanders in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards was killed in fighting with Islamic State group militants on Saturday, a Tehran-based news agency has reported.

It was the first reported combat death of an Iranian general in Iraq by the state-run Tasnim news agency and hints at the stature of the commander.

Shaaban Nassiri was reportedly killed in the town of al-Baaj, west of Mosul, and was said to be the right-hand man of Quds Force General Qassem Soleiman.

He was killed in a former IS stronghold which lies close to the Syrian border and has been the scene of fierce fighting as Tehran-backed Iraqi Shia militias attempt to take the town.

"Commander Shaaban Nassiri was martyred in operations to free the area west of Mosul," the Tasnim news agency reported on a statement from the IRGC.

Nassiri is thought to have been fighting alongside the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces) in the battle to take the town from IS.

The group has been barred from fighting with conventional Iraqi armed forces in Mosul city due to fears the fighters could commit atrocities against civilians, as has happened elsewhere in Iraq.

Since the start of the Battle of Mosul, the force has been positioned to the west of the city to prevent an IS retreat to its territories in Syria.

In recent weeks, the Hashd al-Shaabi militants have swept through IS-held areas surrounding Mosul, including Sinjar military camp located near Baaj.

Nassiri is among thousands of Iranian military sent to aid Iraqi forces in the fight against IS.

They have also provided training and guidance for Shia militias in the Popular Mobilisation Forces which are said to be closely linked to the Tehran regime.

The Iranian Republican Guard commander previously fought in the Iran-Iraq war between 1980 and 1988 and has also served in a supervisory role in Syria, where Iranian-backed militias are propping up Bashar al-Assad's regime.

One sign of Tehran's growing influence in Iraq was the appointment of Iraj Masjedi as Iran's ambassador to Baghdad earlier this year, a former Republican Guard general with strong links to Iraqi resistance forces during Saddam Hussein's rule.